Hanzal hopes Canucks win provides confidence boost
Hours after his second career hat trick in a 5-0 win on Friday in Vancouver, Coyotes center Marty Hanzal went to dinner with his old linemate Radim Vrbata, who is now a member of the Canucks.
"He was wondering how come I didn't score one of those in the last five years while he was playing with me," Hanzal said. "I said, 'I finally found someone to pass me the puck.'"
Hanzal's natural hat trick was part of a much-needed cleansing for the Coyotes after a frustrating start to the season. Following a three-game win streak that had some thinking the team had turned a corner, the Coyotes lost three straight, including home losses to the New York Islanders and Dallas Stars in which Arizona surrendered the game-winning goal in the final three minutes of regulation.
"That was a huge win," Hanzal said of the Vancouver game. "It builds confidence because confidence comes with winning. Confidence is something we need right now. I like our forward group. We just need to learn how to win."
Hanzal (five goals 11 points) had a new linemate on Friday. Coach Dave Tippett shifted Tobias Rieder onto his line with Martin Erat, while sliding Rob Klinkhammer onto a line with Sam Gagner and Shane Doan.
"Speed and a guy who can hold the puck -- that was the reason for that combination," Tippett said, noting that the line will likely remain intact at least another game, given its success.
On the same day defenseman David Schlemko cleared waivers, the Coyotes recalled wing Lucas Lessio from Portland of the AHL. Lessio was tied for the Pirates' team-lead in goals with five in 14 games. He had eight points overall.
"He's the kind of player who really works hard and he wants to go hard to the net and be a hard-checking player," Hanzal said.
COYOTES at OILERS
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Injuries: Edmonton F Taylor Hall (MCL sprain) is skating with the team and could play. Arizona F David Moss (upper body) did not make the trip.
Quick facts: The Oilers sit dead last in the Western Conference with 14 points. ... C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers in scoring with 13 points (5-8) in 15 games. ... F Jordan Eberle scored his 100th career NHL goal on Thursday night against Ottawa, 291 games into his career with the Oilers.
Lessio made the team out of training camp last season and nearly did so again this season, but a little bit of fine-tuning was in order before his recall.
"He's played well down there so we want to have a look at him, but he has to continue to concentrate on the details of the game," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's a dynamic offensive player with speed and size and a great shot, but the details of the game are still a work in progress."
Schlemko will be assigned to Portland. The Coyotes had been exploring a trade for him even before Brandon Gormley was recalled from Portland two weeks ago, but nothing panned out. His re-assignment means the team is carrying seven defensemen and 14 forwards (not including David Moss, who is out with an upper body injury).
The 27-year-old Schlemko had one assist and was a minus-3 in seven games this season.
Devan Dubnyk is 3-0-1 for the Coyotes this season and is coming off a shutout in Vancouver. Mike Smith is 4-9.
Tippett is not sentimental, so the fact Dubnyk played for Edmonton will have little bearing on whether he gets the start Sunday against the Oilers. But did the shutout and the way the team has played in front of him earn him that right?
"We'll talk about that later today," Tippett said Saturday afternoon. "The team has played well in front of Mike a couple games, too, so I wouldn't read too much into that. There are a lot of different circumstances that come into play when evaluating that."
Tippett admitted that a goalie coming off a shutout often deserves another start, but until he talks with assistant to the GM/goalie coach Sean Burke, he won't make that determination.